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Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) has allowed the housing secretary to keep his job after profiling low-income residents and accusing them of deliberately poisoning their children to score free rent.

The governor had a “direct” talk with Secretary Kenneth C. Holt, Maryland Secretary of the Department of Housing and Community Development, about the disparaging comments he made Friday, according to the Baltimore Sun. Delegate members called for Holt to resign, citing his lack of empathy for the mothers of children suffering from lead poisoning. In a letter, thirty democratic delegates also claimed Holt’s comments were racist, since most victims are the children of African-American women.

The Baltimore Sun reports:

“Holt took part in a panel discussion Friday at the summer convention of the Maryland Association of Counties, during which he called for easing the regulatory exposure of landlords in cases where the children of tenants are exposed to lead. Holt his audience that the current law could motivate a mother to put a fishing weight in a child’s mouth to elevate the level of lead in his bloodstream and qualify for free housing at the landlord’s expense until the child turned 18.”

Holt said he didn’t have proof of the incidents, but a developer told him it was possible. On Monday, Hogan released a statement confirming Holt will remain in his position.

“Over the past seven months, Secretary Holt has proven himself to be a passionate and competent public servant, and the governor remains confident that he can continue to effectively lead this department and serve the people of our state,” Doug Mayer, a spokesman for the governor said.

Maryland law doesn’t grant tenants who come into contact with lead poison free housing. Residents, however, are placed in another area for free until work is done on the lead-filled apartment.

In damage control mode, the Housing Department also released a statement:

“The secretary met with the governor earlier today at which time the governor expressed his disappointment with the secretary’s comments. Secretary Holt is committed to working with advocates, legislators, and families to move forward, rebuild trust, and strengthen the already-strong record [the state housing department] has on this important issue.”

In the city of Baltimore, state tests revealed more than 65,000 children had dangerously high blood-lead levels from 1993 to 2013. One of those children also included police brutality victim Freddie Gray. Over the past 25 years, the government has spent less than $2 billion on lead abatement; furthermore, the cases of lead poisoning are reportedly higher in Black children than White children.



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